Today, anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders, affecting 40 million adults in the US alone, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA). It can affect your thinking, decision-making process, and relationship with other people, significantly impacting the quality of your life or even leading to disruption in your day-to-day functioning.
When it comes to implementing some changes into your lifestyle, you most likely think of a physical aspect, such as starting working out or sticking to a balanced diet to lose weight. However, while there is no doubt that lifestyle changes can be instrumental in improving your overall well-being, they are also an integral part of a comprehensive approach to anxiety and depression treatments.
If you’re struggling with anxiety and feel that even after receiving information on treatment and medication options you’re still lacking wellness advice, keep reading. Below, we will explore some of the most crucial lifestyle changes that will help you cope with anxiety better and boost your overall mental health.
For many people, it’s only natural to reach out for a cigarette when feeling anxious or stressed, as nicotine provides an immediate sense of relaxation and seems to be a quick and easy way to relieve stress. However, research shows that smoking actually increases anxiety and tension because this relief is soon followed by withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings.
If quitting cold turkey is too challenging an option for you, you can try switching to e-cigarettes. First of all, using nic salts e-liquids will allow you to control the amount of nicotine you consume on a daily basis. Second, vaping can also help reduce the amount of nicotine intake, as you can find e-liquids of different flavors with nicotine strength varying from 10mg to 3mg, and, most importantly, completely nicotine-free.
Another potent element that can fuel your anxiety is caffeine. In addition to caffeine-induced symptoms that mimic anxiety like nervousness, fast heart rate, and restlessness, it can also decrease the production of the feel-good chemical serotonin in the body, making your mood unstable or just awful.
As such, it would be best to reduce your caffeine intake and skip that second cup of coffee later in the day. Keep in mind that it takes up to 10 hours for caffeine to leave your body entirely, and also pay attention to other caffeinated beverages and foods, such as tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate.
Staying physically active can have a tremendous impact on those struggling with mental health issues, even if you stick to simple, low-impact exercises, such as walking or cycling. And these are not just words – there is strong evidence from animal studies that exercise and regular activity positively impact the pathophysiological processes of anxiety, in addition to numerous studies showing that exercise is also associated with reduced anxiety in clinical settings.
Moreover, a study published in the Frontiers found that having a physically active lifestyle (being a skier) is associated with around 60% lower risk of developing anxiety disorders compared to matched individuals from the general population.
Besides, engaging in exercise can be helpful in distracting yourself from the anxiety triggers in the first place. It can also help you release muscle tension, which, in turn, will lower your body’s contribution to feeling anxious, as well as stimulate important anti-anxiety neurochemicals, such as serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and endocannabinoids.
A good night’s sleep is crucial for overall mental and physical health, as it allows your body to rest and regenerate, preparing you for a new day. Unfortunately, anxiety can cause sleep problems, such as insomnia, which can further exacerbate anxiety symptoms and make it harder for you to cope with stressors in your life.
To get enough quality sleep, it’s important to establish a regular sleep schedule. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – weekends included. It’s also important to create a relaxing bedtime routine that will signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. For instance, you could take a warm bath, read a book, or do some light stretching. In addition, it’s important to avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime as the blue light emitted by these devices can disrupt your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Also, pay attention to your sleeping environment and make sure it’s dark, quiet, and cool to create optimal conditions for falling asleep faster and staying asleep throughout the night.
Anxiety is a common mental health disorder that can significantly affect the quality of your life, including how you feel and what decisions you make. While there is no single cure for anxiety, making some lifestyle changes can help you better cope with this condition and improve your overall mental health.
Some of the most important lifestyle changes that can help you manage anxiety include cutting back on your smoking and caffeine intake, staying physically active, and getting enough restful sleep. Implementing these changes into your daily routine will help you boost your mood, feel more relaxed, and better deal with stress. Take care!